What better way to celebrate your birthday, your love of running and the pre-release of your book about running (cupcakes and suffering) than with a running event?
That’s what Matt Inman (“The Oatmeal”) decided to do. His birthday was September 24 and he hosted a 10K, half and full marathon on September 20 and 21 with aid stations offering birthday cake, Nutella sandwiches and “magical grape beverages”. Located in the beautiful Tolt MacDonald Park in Carnation, Washington.
For those that are unfamiliar with the The Oatmeal, his comics deal with a wide range of topics. The Oatmeal has a way drawing some of our cultural idiosyncrasies in a thought-provoking and hilarious way. His latest book, The terrible and wonderful reasons why I run long distances, is a heart-felt and comical reflection on why he runs, tips on running a marathon and a guide to becoming a runner plus so much more. A portion of the book was featured on his website earlier this year, which touched a nerve with a lot of people who can relate to why he runs. Both Robin York and I along with a lot of runners we know run for the same reason, to beat the Blerch.
When he announced on his site that he was going to host a Beat the Blerch Marathon, Half and 10k, anticipation and excitement grew to the point of an epic internet Tsunami. On March 24, the day of registration, which I had a reminder on my calendar, the inaugural race filled up in within 20 minutes and crashed the registration servers, even though The Oatmeal warned them that it would likely happen. I spent 30 minutes that morning sweating bullets waiting for each of the registration screens to painfully crawl to the next step of the process, praying I did not get knocked from the servers. The cap was 2000 total for all three races combined for the Sunday, September 21 event, leaving about 4000 people on a waiting list. In quick order to try to meet some of the demand, a second day for the race was made available on Saturday, September 20 and only people on the waiting list were invited by e-mail to sign-up on a first come, first serve basis.
My fellow blogger Robin York and I had the opportunity and pleasure to run the Sunday half marathon so we are writing this race recap together.
Robin York’s Beat the Blerch perspective from the back of the pack:
I showed up at the festivities on Saturday, September 20 and stood in line for my autograph to avoid the long line post race on Sunday. I was registered to run the half distance the following day. After “The Oatmeal” finished with those who were in line, I got a photo with him at the finish line. he had a cake for the Dead Last Finisher as their award for their perseverance to race on. When the time on the clock started to tick away, we ran off through the course to locate his final runners and help run them in. This was after having done the half distance himself earlier that day,
On Sunday morning, my family wished me luck and I placed myself in the back of the crowd with my appropriate pace. “The Oatmeal” ran a half distance in this race as well… only this time he wore a green colored inflatable type body suit. The course started out on a paved type greenbelt through the park and after crossing under a concrete bridge, the path turned into a gravel road with larger rocks and not quite as packed. This lasted for a short distance as the trail became more packed with smaller rocks. The course has a gradual incline for about a gain of 300 feet in elevation until the halfway point, when half marathoners turn around and have a subtle decline working in their favor.
Out on the course, I saw people dressed as “The Blerch” at the two main aid stations. Because it was an “out and back” course, this made for four aid stations and four chances to kick back on the sofa and be told unmotivating things by “The Blerch” hanging out there.
“You’ve been working so hard. You deserve a break. Sit down and rest your feet. Have some cake.”
And on cue, a volunteer would arrive like a butler with a tray full of cake. I took two pieces. After gobbling them up and getting some photos taken, I sprung to my feet and journeyed on. As you approached each aid station, a blerch character would run up to greet you with things like “Slow down! Hey Captain Speedy Pants, you’re going to injure yourself! Take a stroll through the woods and enjoy the day…”
I laughed at the blerch remarks and thought about the times I had used some of those same phrases to try to get out of running. I certainly can be pretty good and making excuses and finding ways to get out of a run. Why? I have no idea. Everytime I get out and go for a run, I feel better for have done it and feel better overall as my health has only improved since I have started running. For a more in-depth article on why I run with My Running Story – A personal post by our newest blogger Robin York. While out there on the warm day, ushering in Autumn, I resisted the temptation to quit and stay on that couch with a whole (untampered) jar of Nutella and the spoon being passed to me. I beat the Blerch.
After enjoying the sugary refreshments at the aid stations, taking my time for snapshots along the beautiful course, I wandered back toward the finish. Most of the course was shady and didn’t seem too terribly hot, but when I got back onto the paved part of the route and within the last mile of the finish…the shade had vanished and the day was wearing on to rising temps. After crossing the finish line, sugary (and healthy) refreshments were available with plenty of water. A volunteer photographer was taking photos at a “photo booth” type set up near the gear check and Matthew Inman was once again seated to greet all the fans and runners who wanted an autograph and maybe a doodle too.
Medals were available for all finishers with each medal specific to the distance you had completed, as well as your shirt. I thought this was unique as many races put the name of their race/event and list off all the distances and give that medal to everyone. Only your distance you completed was celebrated on your swag. Shirts were a long sleeve, half zip, tech shirt with thumb holes! Perfect for the Pacific Northwest fall weather. The back states which distance you completed and no logos or ads for event sponsors are featured on the shirt or bib.
The course support, spectator support and enthusiasm, fun characters on the course and friendly people I met at the start and finish made this the most memorable and fun race I have gone to. I highly recommend it and hope that I am fortunate enough to do this race again.
Results for the 2014 Beat the Blerch races:
Saturday, September 20:
Sunday, September 21:
The Oatmeal promised all runners that race photos would be free to download and one of the many benefits of participating in the event. Comer Photos provided the service and has them hosted in their 2014 Beat the Blerch albums. The photos are copyrighted, but available for personal use by the runners who participated. Anyone interested in commercial purposes for these images should contact Comber Photos.
I arrived in Carnation, Washington early and took photos of the racers on Saturday which are available in my Smugmug album 2014 09 20 – Beat the Blerch. Like the official photos, these are free to download for personal use.
Final thoughts about the race:
The Oatmeal and his team clearly thought through and fully planned this event out, because their inaugural two-day, six race Blerch beating fest went off smoothly
Are you tired sign
Park and pic of bridge
Start of race on Saturday
Blerch chasing runners
More gorgeous surroundings
Robin with Blerch
Robin with Big Foot